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A look at the past and future of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

In its prime, the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company was a huge job supplier for the area
CFAC Sold
Posted at 8:20 AM, Apr 10, 2024

COLUMBIA FALLS — The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company (CFAC) and surrounding property are set to be purchased by a local developer.

MTN spoke with a historian with the Columbia Falls Historical Society and the future developer to discuss the past and future of the land.

CFAC opened in 1955 as the Anaconda Aluminum Company, and the plant operated until it was closed in 2009.

“It was either the major employer or close to it for most of the time it was here even when it started off it was a big company for this valley,” said Rick Prestbye, a former CFAC employee and historian for the Columbia Falls Historical Society Museum. “The plant was a long-term, permanent job for an awful lot of people, an awful lot of families in this valley. And that is the worst thing is when a big plant like the aluminum plant closes it leaves a lot of people unemployed. So it was it was devastating to the community when the plant closed, it really was.”

CFAC Anaconda
The Columbia Falls Aluminum Company opened in 1955 as the Anaconda Aluminum Company, and the plant operated in Columbia Falls until it was closed in 2009.

In its prime, the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company was a huge job supplier for the Columbia Falls area.

Now it's getting a second chance to bring homes and jobs to the Flathead Valley as a local developer has entered into a land agreement sale with CFAC for nearly 2,400 acres of land. Ruis Construction developer, Mick Ruis, hopes to put homes as well as an industrial business on this land.

“I hope it is going to bring many jobs. I'm not looking to get a say like Amazon distribution center that uses a lot of robots and stuff and not people, Ruis said. "I want to get some kind of industry that you know that we have blue-collar workers which this town was you know having lumber mills and all the aluminum plant — that's what I want back here.”

There has been some concern about homes being built near the contaminated Superfund site but the purchase will not include the contaminated land, and remediation work will be completed at the site before any construction is complete.

Mick Ruis
Ruis Construction developer Mick Ruis hopes to put homes as well as an industrial business on 2,400 acres of land in Columbia Falls.

“It's going to be all regulated and make sure it's good. And any houses that we're building [are] not even close to where the contamination was. We're talking seven years of monitoring wells in the right plan — how to do this. It wasn't something overnight that someone didn't you know, in the back room, it's been out there with the city with the whole community,” said Ruis.

Along with the houses and industrial park, Ruis hopes to create a massive 100-acre park for all of Columbia Falls to enjoy. However, the main goal of this development is to recreate the thriving community the aluminum plant had in the past.

“I want jobs I want to just create a whole bunch of jobs, with jobs comes housing, with housing, you need jobs, so they're both working hand in hand together. It's just a natural fit with the sewer, the water, the land, to have the growth go this way, you know, and then with the industrial park being here to bring the jobs it was like that was there two marriages made in heaven,” Ruis told MTN.